Onstage: Laugh a Lot

Classic Monty Python routines plus Broadway parodies

Oct 25, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Joan Marcus

King Arthur (Michael Siberry) rests on his servant Patsy (Jeff Dumas) in Monty Python's Spamalot.

If you've loved the absurd humor of the British comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus — especially their classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail — get your coconuts and clippity-clop downtown for the touring production of Monty Python's Spamalot. A lot of fans are showing up. With a scene change — oh, let's say to a crenellated castle in France with a rude armored guard staring fiercely at his British attackers — muffled giggles would start, followed by nodding and nudging that another classic was being set up.

Spamalot offers a bounteous trip down an amusing memory lane, starting with those coconuts — used by Patsy (Jeff Dumas), servant to King Arthur (a smug Michael Siberry). They prance around the stage like kids playing at horseback riding, while Patsy simulates the sound of hooves with coconut halves. This leads to the famous analysis by two wry castle watchmen about how coconuts might be found in northern Europe, a fact explained by an equally goofy theory about migrating birds and the physics of their ability to carry coconuts.

That kind of oddball humor typifies Spamalot, and it's exactly what audiences love in this 2005 Tony Award winner for best musical.

Only a few punctuate Python history — "The Lumberjack Song," for instance (not represented here) or the very tongue-in-cheek "Always Look on the Bright Side" (used in an especially daffy way) — music was never a defining component of their comedy. But it's an added ingredient in Spamalot, perhaps for those who don't remember the witty routines.

Spamalot offers numerous Broadway parodies like "The Song That Goes Like This," sung in the exaggerated style of various divas by the Lady of the Lake (Pia Glenn). And there's the very fey Sir Robin (David Turner), who realizes he's better suited for the Great White Way than for questing.

If you don't know all the Python lore, fear not — the Broadway nods are obvious and amusing. This show cleverly leans on the Python tradition of absurdist animation, projected on clouds and a central screen that's also a castle gate.

There's a lot more emphasis on costumes and glitz than on continuity, but you hardly notice because you're laughing so hard. Grade: B+

MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT, presented by the Broadway Series at the Aronoff Center, continues through Sunday.